Chapter 19 - Happy Anniversary
Disclaimer: If I were Gaston Leroux and owned Phantom of the Opera, I would have had this chapter out sooner.
Chapter Twenty– Happy Anniversary
For a week or so after that night I found myself blushing almost constantly. For the first time in my life I had really been in love and just realizing such a feeling was enough to keep my face hot for hours. Most fortunately, (or should I say unfortunately) Erik realized this new change and took as much advantage of it as possible. Now he would not only say, "I love you," but then instantly expect an answer in return. It was not that I did not want to answer back; it was more of he was asking so often. When he wasn't asking verbally, he would sometimes ask physically; nothing too much to handle, but examples such as reaching his hand out half way and then expect me to reach the rest of the way and make complete contact. To be honest I cannot really blame him, sometimes I would do the same thing, but he did it so often that I never really had to. I suppose that is just what lovers do. I was still young in age at that time, even after I had experienced so much. There was still much to learn in the aspects of love.
The days past as they always had, nothing had really changed from our routine. The small misfortune I had that consisted of my arm hitting the bed only resulted in a disgusting looking black bruise. In first seeing it I nearly screamed in the bathroom. After some mental recovery, I was able to put a long sleeve dress on and forget it until it healed. It hurt, but I wasn't about to let it get between Erik and I.
My voice was advancing in ways that never ceased to astonish me and my vocabulary was growing as well. As I have mentioned before, Erik is a great teacher - in all subjects of life. Unfortunately for me, I was too young to realize that he was not only a teacher of subjects found in the pages of a book, but he was also knowledgeable in the ways of the men he hated so much.
"When you are not permitted to speak, you listen, and when you listen, you learn: more than you could ever imagine." He would say this to me after a lesson every now and then. Sometimes it would be out of anger, others out of love, but in whatever context he placed it, it would always have the same meaning in the end.
It gradually became warmer in out little house. I was able to change into some new dresses that I had not worn in months. It was then that I realized how the weather had changed. I know that sounds odd that I would figure out the weather through my fashion choices, but when I had so much time to decide on what to wear in the morning, it is easy to think of more than just clothes. Warmer temperatures meant that it was spring; spring meant that it was close to May; May meant that it was almost a year.
Once having this epiphany I gasped. It would be a year soon! One whole year with Erik! One whole year being married! My mind tried to figure out what to do. What would regular couples do on an anniversary? Sadly enough, I must admit that my mind went straight to something that our odd coupleship had yet to do for another year. Shaking those thoughts out of my head I began to think of other things couples did on an anniversary. There was usually dinner together... Well, Erik and I always did that... Sometimes they would spend the day together, just the two of them... Already done... Or they would give gifts to each other... But Erik had already seemed to give me so much... Yet had I ever given anything to him?
This sparked an idea. What could I give to Erik? My faced lost a little of its light, he already had everything he needed. Now that I admitted I loved him, what else was there that I could give him? Once again my mind floated to something I told him to wait for. I was a coward. There I was worried about my own physical pain after Erik had given me so much while I gave him so little. No, I told myself, I'm not ready for that yet. It would have been out of place. Glancing around my room I saw my knitting and cross-stitching supplies in the corner. What would he want with an embroidered scarf? Sitting on my bed and hugging a pillow I tried to let my mind spark with a good idea, that was when Erik came for me.
"Did you sleep well, love?" he asked beckoning me out of my room with his presence.
"Oh yes, very well, and did you?" I responded following him to the dining room.
"For the hour that I did sleep, yes I slept well."
"Erik really, would it kill you to sleep more?"
"Yes, it would," he said lightly as he took my chair out for me.
"And why is that?"
"I cannot live without seeing you with me, Christine. It is unbearable."
I looked down and blushed once again. He was so forward with his complements and I was so shy. It was unfair. I attempted to comply.
"It amazes me you can see at all. There is no light anymore."
I had meant that to be an 'I chose you over the light' thing... He must have got the message somehow. He really had begun to know me well over the year I had spent with him.
"My eyes have never been able to escape an angel's beauty, even with the lights off."
What was I to say to that but "thank you"? I looked down from his glowing eyes and blushed again.
"I love you, Christine," he said in that gentle soft way only he can do.
"I love you too, Erik." I said shyly.
Breakfast moved on for a few more minutes until I asked, "Erik, what month is it?"
"You surely have been interested in dates lately, Christine. Any particular reason?"
I shrugged, "no."
Giving me one of those I-know-everything glances, he said, "for your information my dear, it is mid May."
"May? Are you serious?"
"Yes, my darling,"
There was a sudden pause. We both knew what "May" really meant. Biting my lip lightly, I returned to my food. Yes, it was May, I had one year left. One whole year before I could really give Erik a present he wanted. But that did not rid myself of the need I had to give him a present at the time.
That afternoon as I sat with him as we read in the library, I found it difficult to concentrate on my book. He took no notice, as he himself seemed to be reading the equivalent of two bibles himself. For some time he had stopped sitting in his own chair in the afternoons and instead came to sit on the ottoman with me. It would not take long for me curl up with him (even if he was reading an insanely large book). That particular afternoon, as well as a few that followed, was spent contemplating on what I could give him. Often times it led to me falling asleep on him. After doing so, I would usually wake up from hunger and look up at him.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to fall asleep again. Really Erik, I know this can't be comfortable for you. You should wake me up next time."
"I truly do not know what you are talking about, Christine. I was only reading my book. You just happened to fall asleep."
When looking at the time, I knew that that could not be completely true. The hour had become late and I knew he must have been like that for most of the afternoon. Smiling softly and shaking my head I looked to him.
"You're too good to me Erik, really you are." I said kissing him under his jaw. Lately, I had been doing that a lot. It was not that I did not want to kiss him fully; it was more of, him wearing the mask. I knew better than to remove the mask.
"No Christine, you are too good to me."
"But really - "
"No, no more," he said putting a finger to my mouth, "it's settled. And that reminds me, I have something special for you tonight after dinner."
"Really? A surprise?"
"Yes, my dear, a surprise, now let us go to dinner. The sooner the better."
As sad as this information is, I don't remember what we ate that night. All I remember is that it was really, really good. But there was obvious reason as to why I don't remember. Besides, the food was not there long enough for me to remember it anyway.
"You ate so quickly tonight, my darling. Are you so excited?"
"You have a surprise for me!"
"Of course I do. What husband would I be to not have something for my wife on our one year anniversary?"
I could have chocked on my last bite. Today? Today was our anniversary?
"Why, my dear, you look pale all of a sudden. Is something the matter?"
Putting down the fork I began to stumble around my words, "well, I… I just, I just didn't expect it to be so-so soon!"
There was suddenly a different mood in the room. It wasn't out of sadness, but out of frustration. Fire was beginning to glow in Erik's eyes and my young self did not understand why.
"So soon? You say it as if it is a curse?" he said rising from his chair to walking to me, "won't you come with me to the sitting room?"
Taking his outstretched hand I said the quiet word, "yes".
The walk to the change of scenery seemed never-ending. That walk alone would prove how ignorant I was to the situation. I was too young to understand that he had thought that my reaction was due to me not having a gift for him instead of me not being happy about a year going by. With this unknown knowledge, the following scene played its self out.
"Christine," he said as he sat me down, "you don't seem at all pleased about the news of our anniversary."
"Oh, Erik, I just didn't realize it would come so soon. That's all."
Looking down to my hands as they fiddled with each other, I felt ashamed. I loved him, I did, but I had nothing to give.
"As I said, I have a surprise for you. A gift that is, but only if you are willing to accept it from poor Erik."
Turning my head up to his standing form above me I said almost hurt, "of course I will, Erik! I wish you wouldn't put yourself down like that!"
"Does it hurt you?"
He said this very quickly. Everything seemed to be happening rather quickly. I did not know exactly what to say. Humbling myself again to him I spoke softly.
"Yes, sometimes it does."
His eyes seemed to burn through my head; when he spoke I could feel that fire through his voice.
"Happy one year anniversary, Christine."
A square box was slowly placed into my vision. I took it hesitantly as the hand that brought it repealed its self. I did not want to open it too quickly: that might make me look stingy, but if I opened it too slowly, it would appear that I did not want it. Counting to the number ten I opened the box by that count. Inside I found the most gorgeous diamond necklace and earring set I had ever seen. The chain of the necklace was made of white diamonds and held together by gold while the jewel on the end of the chain was bigger than my curl thumb. This diamond was a beautiful yellow color cut into a teardrop shape. I had never even seen a diamond of this color and it fascinated me to no end. Beside the necklace were earrings. These earrings resembled the necklace in the sense that they hung from two white diamonds and the third jewel was a teardrop shaped yellow diamond.
I was not breathing. My mouth was gaped open and I was mentally drooling. Time had seemed to stop around me. The whole previous situation was gone and I was left staring at this new piece of jewelry. Such a moment was broken as something equally, if not more beautiful broke through my ears.
"A rare yellow diamond, Christine. I went through all kinds of trouble to retrieve it for you. I trust you like it?"
"Erik… Erik it's beautiful…"
More silence followed as I became hypnotized by the shiny objects in front of me.
"Would you like me to put it on you then?"
That idea had not even crossed my mind. Just staring at the jewels was just fine with me, but to wear them too! I could not even talk and so I dumbly nodded. Erik carefully took the box from me and I watched his every movement as he walked suavely around the ottoman. The back of the necklace was then lowering its self around my head and as it touched the skin of my neck it was surprisingly warm to me. I heard him click it the chain together and felt him let go. His hands were then felt on my shoulders as he tentatively moved them from my neck. The feeling made my neck hairs stand on end and my skin to heat.
"Put on the earrings as well, Christine." He whispered in my left ear.
Unknowingly my hands followed the directions from the voice, as if the voice were puppeteering them its self. While this was being done my eyes were closing slowly, shutting out all the light of the room. The hands on my shoulders began to move up into my hair as they massaged my scalp. Ever so slightly they proceeded to turn my head to my left where I faintly remembered his voice to be.
"Christine…" it said slowly into my face.
Opening my eyes I could only see two yellow eyes before me. The eyes were like the diamonds as they were the only things I could see. My mind was drowsy and the eyes blurred into my vision like fire to a field. As if some magnetic pull were present, my face was being drawn closer and closer to the burning fire. His lips on faintly brushed mine when I said, "Erik…"
"What darling?" he said into my ear.
"I have nothing to give to you for our anniversary…"
I could feel his lips moving slowly across my neck and I stretched it wider to give him more room to continue.
"Christine?" he said into my neck.
"Yes?" I moaned softly.
"Do you love me?"
He left my neck to look into my eyes as if to make sure I comprehended his words. My reality that was once blurred was now clear as I looked into those glowing eyes. Reaching out to his cheek I cupped it in my hand.
"Yes, Erik, I love you." I said kissing him softly on the lips.
"Then that is all I could ever ask for."
He returned the kiss.
"Happy anniversary, love." I whispered to him.
"Happy anniversary, Christine."